Public Health England [PHE]

Establishment of Public Health England (PHE)

1. Public Health England was founded on 1 April 2013. It was established as a crucial part of the reorganisation of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, as outlined in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

2. It has now been disbanded.

Core purpose

3. PHE’s main mission was to protect and enhance the health and well-being of the English population. Moreover, the agency was pivotal in efforts to diminish health inequalities across the nation.

Integration of predecessor bodies

4. Before PHE’s inception, several health entities existed independently. Upon the creation of PHE, roles from the Health Protection Agency, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, and other health organisations were integrated into its structure, making it a comprehensive agency for public health matters.

Affiliation and autonomy

5. Although PHE functioned as an executive agency, it was closely affiliated with the Department of Health and Social Care. Despite this affiliation, it maintained a distinct operational autonomy, allowing it to act and make decisions independently.

Disbanding PHE

6. In light of evolving public health needs, on 29 March 2021, the UK government announced plans to disband PHE. 

7. PHE’s health protection responsibilities transitioned to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). UKHSA focus is on pandemic preparedness and response. The UKHSA was officially launched in April 2021, and it is led by Dr Jenny Harries, the former deputy chief medical officer for England.

8. The decision was made in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed some weaknesses and failures in PHE’s performance and accountability. 

9. The PHE health improvement tasks were shared among the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (DHSC), NHS England, and NHS Digital.

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